Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, but it has little to do with candlelit dinners and Hallmark cards. This special occasion honors a hero and pastor named St. Valentine. The history of this holiday has been buried while the meaning of love itself all but obscured by cultural cliches and relativism. A day set aside for romance and devotion to lovers or spouses is a gift! But, we shouldn’t lose the significance of this holiday. Whether married or single, the real tragedy emerges when others turn inwardly and focus on what they could gain or what they should have in a relationship. Self-focus pervades our culture at an intoxicating level. This twisted view of love becomes more about “me” and what “I can get,” instead of what I can give and pour into someone else for the sole benefit of that person. As a side note, it’s hard to love when you’re leading a life on empty, but that’s a topic for another time.Today, many young women turn inwardly to focus on the attention they feel that they are not receiving. This is especially sad and becomes a harmful mindset. While enjoying time out with friends is all good, I find that many women take this day to self-soothe and self-focus. ‘All the single ladies’ end up gathering together to celebrate, not simply Valentine’s Day, but Galentine’s Day! Many girls spend the day reflecting on memories of past relationships as they enjoy Galentine’s dinners and snuggle up with their box of Godiva chocolates to re-watch the not so epic movie, The Notebook.But here’s the real story behind Valentine’s Day and heroic love worth imitating — Saint Valentine was a third century pastor who was imprisoned for his faith. As author and speaker Dr. George Grant explains: “Valentine wrote small pastoral notes to members of his congregation on leaves he was able to pluck from a maple tree just outside his cell. These little ‘Valentine’s cards’ expressed his love for the flock, and his desire that they demonstrate like love toward one another. Gradually the tradition grew up for Christians to exchange notes of love and encouragement to one another every year on his birthday, February 14.”Saint Valentine lived under the oppressive reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who banned marriages between young couples.Emperor Claudius sought to create a merciless army that was unafraid of death. In order to to accomplish this, he released an edict that prevented military men from marrying and having connection to family and children. Claudius viewed marriage and family as an enemy to his military agenda. However, Saint Valentine defied the emperor and married young couples in secret. Because of this, Valentine would pay the ultimate price. He would be imprisoned and brutally executed because he defied this edict of Rome. It’s clear that real love is exemplified through a selfless heroism of denying self while sacrificing for the good of others. After all, love is best defined as the fulfillment of a command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as you love yourself.” Valentine reflected this. Today becomes a tragedy in that we forget our history and the epic stories left to us. We jump into buying flowers and chocolates — cheap forms of expressing love. And yet, how do we spend the rest of the year investing into others? Our culture is quick to say “I love you,” but the word carries little weight. As author and speaker Ravi Zacharias reminds us, “Somehow, in the romantic world of music and theater, we have made love to be what it is not. We have so mixed love with beauty and charm and sensuality and contact that we have robbed it of its higher call of cherishing and nurturing.” We use the word love for everything and everyone synonymously: “I love my friend, but I also love God and blueberry cheesecake.” Thus, in its overuse there is abuse, because there are no clear lines of demarcation and the word “love” loses its value. This much is clear: Love is not just a saying. It’s an action. Love is the selfless giving of oneself — it is total surrender and self-sacrifice. You hear older couples say, “Marriage is hard,” and that’s because loving others well is not always easy. It is the pursuit of another’s heart and interests even at the expense of your own. This is what St. Valentine demonstrated. And today, on February 14th, we celebrate the legacy he left us. Let’s not allow for the cheap, commercialization of a powerful celebration of faith, selfless love, and heroism. Happy Saint Valentine’s Day! Written by Jenn Beard
In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. This brutal slaughter has been called the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. Sadly, the progressives have chosen to ignore the facts surrounding the attack and have chosen to use the shooting as a propaganda tool for their anti-gun agenda. The facts about the terrorist attack and Omar Mateen are not up for debate. The truth is that Mateen was previously investigated by the FBI for possible connections to international terrorist organizations. In addition, shortly before his attack on Pulse nightclub, Mateen called 9-1-1 and pledged allegiance to the leaders of ISIS. It is, at best, intellectually dishonest to divorce the attack from its root cause — radical Islamic extremism. Yet, many of the Democrats in Washington immediately proposed several gun control measures. Four of the proposed bills were taken up by the Senate and all were rejected. Democratic lawmakers then responded by staging a “sit-in” protest on the floor of the House of Representatives, which caused quite a stir in the media. To be clear though, the protest was not about the victims — the protest was about gun control.
Democratic lawmakers hoped to force a vote on gun legislation by occupying the House floor this Wednesday, June 22.
One Republican representative, Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) described the protest as “outrageous,” and said that House Democrats would grab microphones and prevent fellow lawmakers from conducting business in violation of House rules. Thankfully, House Republicans did not give in to these antics, and Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the sit-in as a “publicity stunt” and “a fundraising stunt.” Nevertheless, while keeping up with the political drama unfolding in Washington, I witnessed an extreme amount of misinformation about guns that motivated me to pen a lengthy Facebook post addressing the issues surrounding the gun control debate, which in turn served as the inspiration for this guest post. On a personal note, I want to stress that I regard it as a massive disservice to the victims of the terrorist attack that the terrorist attack has led to a contentious political debate on guns. As a Christian, my sincere thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, their families, and those recovering from the attack. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack, it was my honest hope that we as Americans — we as human beings — would stand up together and present a united front against the extremism and hatred that Mateen embodied. It is my firm belief that all people, men or women, gay or straight, black or white, are endowed by God with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, the significant loss of human life makes it altogether more important for us to have an intellectually honest conversation about the issues surrounding the attack. With this in mind, I’d like to begin by dispelling some of the myths about the guns used in the attack and the firearms that are currently available for civilian purchase in the US. Despite certain media reports, Mateen did not use an AR-15 in carrying out the attack. Mateen entered the nightclub armed with a pistol and a Sig Sauer MCX rifle, a firearm that is both functionally and cosmetically different than the AR-15. Regardless of the differences between the AR-15 and the MCX, neither gun is an “automatic gun” or a “machine gun” or even an “assault rifle.” These terms refer to firearms with automatic or select-fire capabilities, which means they are capable of firing more than one round (bullet) so long as the trigger is depressed continuously. Strict regulations already exist that make it virtually impossible for civilians to purchase automatic firearms. Automatic firearms are different than semi-automatic guns, like the AR-15, which are available for citizens to purchase and which are capable of firing only a single round each time the trigger is depressed. Moving beyond the myths that have been reported about the guns used in the attack, I’d like to specifically discuss some of the problems with the following three gun control proposals currently being pushed by the progressives:
The proposal to ban “assault weapons,”
The proposal to close the “gun show loophole”
The proposal to prohibit persons suspected of having terrorist connections from purchasing guns
Of course, as a general proposition, it’s easy to dismiss all of these gun control proposals by noting that criminals will not be stopped by legislation, and by pointing out that any anti-gun legislation would therefore only serve to impose barriers upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. Likewise, it would be easy to point out that no measure of gun control, no matter how inflexible, could have prevented the hatred and jihadism that motivated Mateen. As for proof of this fact, we need look no further than the Paris terrorist attacks, where hundreds of innocents were maimed and murdered in another act of Islamic terrorism, despite strict French gun controls laws. But, for the purposes of this post, we’ll ignore these basic arguments and consider some of the other fatal flaws with each of the gun control proposals.
The people of Paris gathered to mourn the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France on November, 2015.
First, with respect to the proposed assault weapons ban, I think it’s best to focus upon the nature of the constitutional right enshrined by the Second Amendment. The proposed assault weapons ban, or AWB, would prohibit the manufacture or sale of certain firearms, like the AR-15, based upon cosmetic features (e.g.: pistol grips, barrel shrouds, and folding stocks), and would prohibit the manufacture or sale of high capacity magazines — not to be confused with “clips” — usually defined as those capable of storing more than ten rounds. The AWB is not a new idea. Congress passed an AWB back in the 90’s, which was in effect for 10 years until 2004. It had no definitive impact upon gun crime. Proponents of the AWB often make ridiculous statements, such as: “No hunter should require more than 10 rounds to kill a deer,” or “The Constitution wasn’t written to cover guns as powerful as the AR-15,” or “Assault style weapons should be reserved for the military.” In my view, these sorts of arguments are often the strongest criticism of the AWB itself, insofar as these arguments prove gun control advocates are ignorant as to the meaning of the Second Amendment. The framers of the U.S. Constitution penned the Bill of Rights in broad language in order to encompass technological developments and changes. This is why the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press covers online and television publications. Further, the framers did not delimit the right of the citizenry to possess guns only for hunting or sport. In fact, the framers intended for citizens to be well-armed to permit citizens to take up arms in defense of the Republic against enemies, both foreign and domestic. This is precisely the reason why we as citizens should cherish and preserve our right to keep and bear arms of all kinds. Next, with respect to the proposal to extend the current laws on background checks, I would initially emphasize that there is no “gun show loophole.” Currently, federal law requires a criminal background check for all firearm transfers effectuated by firearm dealers, regardless of the location of the sale, i.e., whether initiated online, at a gun store, or a gun show. Congress purposefully wrote the law in a manner that requires only dealers, that is, those in the business of selling firearms, to perform background checks. The law permits people to engage in limited transactions involving their personal property, which in turn prevents the government from having a complete record of gun sales and serves as a potential check on further intrusions onto the right to keep and bear arms. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the government to stick its nose into every single transaction involving guns. For example, I don’t think the government should prevent a father from handing over his prized revolver to his daughter for personal protection as she embarks for college. Furthermore, it is simply unnecessary to expand the law, as there are existing laws that prohibit persons from regularly selling firearms without obtaining a federal license and which prohibit persons from knowingly selling guns to others who are prohibited by law from purchasing firearms. Finally, one of the most common anti-gun proposals being bandied about right now is the “no fly, no buy” proposal, which would prohibit persons suspected of having terrorist connections (and who are listed on the no-fly list) from purchasing a gun. Some might argue that this proposal sounds reasonable. After all, nobody wants terrorists to be able to purchase guns. However, this proposal would not have stopped Mateen, who was not on the no-fly list at the time of the attack. More importantly, this proposal is constitutionally problematic under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. The central issue with the proposal is that there is no judicial oversight over who is listed on the no-fly list. Thus, anybody can be placed on the no-fly list without notice or a court hearing. Based upon the whim of a bureaucrat in Washington, you or I could be labeled as a “terrorist threat” and prohibited from exercising our Second Amendment rights. To be clear, you don’t have to commit a crime, or even be accused of committing a crime, to be placed on the no-fly list. This means that those who support the “no fly, no buy” proposal actually support replacing due process with secret lists. No liberty-loving American should support such an unprecedented concept. It is fundamentally wrong, deeply disconcerting, and downright unconstitutional to deny persons from exercising their constitutional rights without due process of law. To the extent that the progressives want to use the terrorist attack in Orlando to promote their anti-gun agenda, I would encourage them to speak about guns and their gun proposals in an honest manner. No reasonable person wants to see another lose his or her life at the barrel of gun, but, to quote Calvin Coolidge: “Opinions…do not outmatch the Constitution; against it they are void.” By Guest Writer, William Dunckelman, Esq.
If you think this is another blog post about Kim Kardashian, it’s not. This post is really about modern media’s assault on womanhood and its effect on young girls. The truth is, most Hollywood celebrities like the Kardashians are changing culture by re-branding femininity and sexuality and there will continue to be serious consequences. An onslaught of unrealistic images and deceptive advertisements communicate a twisted message to women. Many of these images, ads and TV shows tell women they need to measure up to this idealized standard of perfection. Also, modern media are fueling a sexual revolution. This revolution spreads an attitude of, “Do whatever you want. Be whatever you desire. It’s your body. It’s your right.” Perfectionism is thrust upon women at nearly every turn. Ads are plastered in magazines, on billboards, across TV screens and down the sides of buildings and busses. Nearly every image is photoshopped. One photo retoucher confessed about advertisements, “Every picture has been worked on, some twenty, thirty rounds…they are perfected to death.” Photoshoppers have revealed that they pick and choose the body parts they like among several women to create one ideal image sold in magazines and advertisements. In fact, many of the models you see in photos are four separate women pieced together into one. What you see is not what you get. This is the type of extreme photoshopping that women are convinced is reality. Thankfully, some models and actresses have spoken out. Model Cindy Crawford confessed, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” Even high-paid models can’t measure up to their own image portrayed in magazines. A few days ago, the media was bombarded with Kim Kardashian’s controversial, semi-nude photo. Ironically, she posted it to celebrate International Women’s Day. Other than two black bars blocking out her private areas, her explicitly nude photograph was taken from the privacy of her bathroom, then posted online. What’s the big deal? Some may argue that they’ve seen bikini pics more revealing than Kim’s bathroom selfie. The point is not how graphic the photo was, the point is that this type of celebrity behavior affects kids and debases the value of femininity in our culture. Elle Magazine took to Facebook in full support of Kim’s photo, demanding female opponents of Kim’s post to back down: “Kim Kardashian West has had ENOUGH of being shamed for her sexuality.” Unlike what Elle may say, outrage from thousands of women regarding Kim’s photo stems from the fact that this type of image demeans women and diminishes their value to the level of their physicality. It’s no wonder that women are agitated. Kim’s picture was intentionally posted on a day set apart to honor noble and brave women from history who worked for the good of humankind. Sensuality should never be celebrated in place of virtue. Women are angry and tired of their sexuality being trivialized and sold to the lowest bidder. Women are worth more than their physical image. Girls suffer enough peer pressure. Why are women required to look a certain way to fit the status quo? If women disagree with any celebrity who posts lewd imagery, it may not be to shame the woman in the photo, but instead, to encourage all women to live up to a higher standard of decency that defends purity and protects young girls from objectification and sexual exploitation. After all, the cost of intertwining girls’ value with their sex appeal is high. While Elle Magazine proclaims that women are shaming Kim’s sexuality, studies show that teen girls are struggling with real shame and depression. These negative emotions stem in part from the media’s deceptive and overly provocative imagery. An average teen girl spends about 7-10 hours daily consuming media content, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Teen girls are absorbing a way of life and habits exemplified by their favorite pop icons. Research suggests that the influence of media on young girls causes “3 out of 4 girls to struggle with depression, guilt, and shame,” according to the Representation Project. Sexuality today is meaningless, cheap and purely physical. What does that say to a little girl about her value? One source says that “Self image issues can lead to eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, cutting, bullying and sexual addictions.” Imagine the psychological damage young girls endure and how media branding can alter the meaning and function of a woman’s role in the world, relationships, sex, marriage and family. With all this said, it’s still hard to grasp the intensity of the problem because our society has become so desensitized. Media sensationalism is the new normal, and the new normal is setting the bar lower with each generation. Look at Miley Cyrus, for example. Within a few years, she went from a cute, conservative childhood starlet, to a hyper sexualized pop star. In a photo spread for Paper Magazine, Miley was marketed as the new image for young women who stand for sexual liberation. Apparently going nude and rolling around in the dirt with a pig somehow encapsulates female empowerment. It’s no surprise that she came to Kim Kardashian’s defense when women, including other female celebrities, protested Kim’s graphic bathroom photos. Unfortunately, the typical, cliché response to anyone who opposes these types of photos or imagery is basically, “Don’t judge! It’s her body, her choice!” It’s one thing to say that what a celebrity does in the privacy of their home stays at home, but it’s quite another when video and photographs are intentionally taken and posted to the web. Material online is no longer a private issue. These types of photos do have a powerful effect on people. They not only influence the way women see themselves, but also impact the way men see women. We are training men, especially young men, to see women as sex objects. Social media and television have become the new school-house where young boys are taught that women should be seen and used as playthings to appease their sexual appetites. One report shows that on average, “Music videos contain 93 sexual situations per hour, including 11 hard-core scenes depicting behavior like intercourse and oral sex.” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video demonstrates this perverse treatment of women. In his video, most of the women are completely nude and displayed as sexual toys grasped and passed around by the men. Thicke’s lyrics say it all:
“Okay now he was close, tried to domesticate you. But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature. Just let me liberate you…But you’re a good girl. The way you grab me. Must wanna get nasty.”
It’s unfortunate that teen boys are the main viewers of music videos today, videos that heighten their desire for pornographic material. Evidence shows that this is fueling them to handle women in harmful ways and to use women to indulge their senses. This type of pornographic and overly sexualized media instructs its viewer that it’s okay to treat women heartlessly and even sadistically. As the research team at Fight The New Drug has proven, this can lead to violence and sexual assault against women and young girls. It seems undeniable that celebrities and mass media have significant power influencing culture today. If you are a woman and are reading this, please realize that you should never be valued by what you look like, wear or weigh. You are valuable because you are a person made in the image and likeness of God.You are enough just as you are, and if you are not loved for who you are, then you are not being loved in the right way. Ultimately, only so much can be said or written on this topic. Eventually, the twisted agenda of the modern media needs to be exposed for what it is and for what it’s doing to women. So, I leave you with “I Stand Up,” a video that unveils the destructive sway mass media holds on beautiful, young girls today. By Jennifer Beard
On this day, seventy-three years ago, Sophie Scholl was beheaded for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets on her campus at the University of Munich. Sophie was only 22 years old when she was convicted of high treason and executed along with some of her close friends and her brother, Hans. She and her brother were part of a student organization and anti-Nazi group called the White Rose. Together, they peaceably and relentlessly challenged the corrupt powers of Nazi Germany. Elizabeth Scholl recalls the day she discovered her brother and sister had been executed: “I picked up a newspaper in a cafe where I was waiting for a bus. I noticed the headline on the front page. It told me that my brother and sister had been beheaded the previous day for treason. I wished there and then that I was insane so that I did not have to comprehend this. I was just four days away from my own 23rd birthday and I felt that my entire world had been destroyed.” Freedom of speech was crushed under the Nazi regime. The smallest mention of anything remotely anti-Nazi or anti-Hitler was viewed as high treason. Sophie Scholl’s father was even imprisoned for a critical remark he made about Hitler to an employee. Ultimately, Sophie herself was guillotined for simply spreading pamphlets and dissenting against the current political order. Like any college student today, Sophie and members of the White Rose shared opinions publicly and shed light on political abuse. They dispersed leaflets and painted anti-Nazi graffiti on walls with words as simple and powerful as “Freedom.” Their hope was to stir good men and women to action, to awaken their conscience, and to encourage like-minded people to take a stand against an oppressive regime. The leaflets were especially intended to gain the attention of the intellectual community and inspire the rise of true leadership. The writings they published described the mass extermination of Jews and other such atrocities, condemning national socialism and the Nazi party. Leaflets distributed by members of the White Rose were left in phone-booths, mailed to professors, and scattered across stairwells. The White Rose’s efforts lasted from 1942-1943, until a school janitor caught Sophie Scholl and others scattering leaflets inside a campus building. Thankfully, one of the White Rose members, George Wittenstein, survived. His description of Germany during the reign of Adolph Hitler holds disturbing similarities to America today:
The guillotine used by the Nazis to kill thousands, including Hans and Sophie Scholl.
The government – or rather, the party – controlled everything: the news media, arms, police, the armed forces, the judiciary system, communications, travel, all levels of education from kindergarten to universities, all cultural and religious institutions. Political indoctrination started at a very early age, and continued by means of the Hitler Youth with the ultimate goal of complete mind control. Children were exhorted in school to denounce even their own parents for derogatory remarks about Hitler or Nazi ideology.
After reading this, I began to wonder how close we are as a nation to becoming like this totalitarian regime. That may sound over-dramatic, but since Wilson’s presidency, America has been undergoing a dangerous evolution. Regimes like Nazi Germany do not grow overnight. They begin with certain threatening ideologies that take root in the soil of apathy. These ideologies grow in the dead of night while society slumbers. Holocaust survivor, Anita Dittman, warns that America eerily mirrors that of Germany right before and during Hitler’s rise to power. She goes a step further, comparing Hitler’s political tactics to that of President Obama. Progressive mandates and legislation pushed by Obama and his administration may appear trivial to some, but historically they will trigger serious consequences. The socialization of medicine by Obamacare, the HHS Mandate’s strict fines on religious businesses, the persecution and direct targeting of conservative organizations by the IRS, the federal attempt to ban gun rights, and the national override of education, are only a few political strides that follow in the footsteps of Nazi Germany. Freedom may live in the hearts and actions of individuals, but it comes at a price. Heroes like Sophie Scholl understood this and paid with her life. Today, our freedoms are not merely taken for granted, they are under attack. Yet, many of us do nothing. Perhaps the heroic feats of Sophie Scholl and those like her will embolden us. It should be remembered that unchecked power will continue to consume and control, until ultimately destroying the freedom it promised to protect. Hans Scholl realized this and before his death declared, “It is time, in the name of civic and Christian courage, something must be done.” Likewise, we must speak out to preserve freedom, we must fight to protect human life from the youngest among us to the oldest, because justice demands a defense of all that is good and true and of all we hold dear. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous German pastor who was executed for his vocal opposition of the Nazi regime, left us with these words, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” By Jennifer Beard